Projected East to West coast new railway - 1944?

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grove

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In the East Midlands volume of the Regional Railways series, there is a brief mention of a proposal in 1944 to build a new railway from Harwich and Yarmouth to Aberystwyth via Northampton and Worcester. Of course, it never happened and I am not sure how much further than an "idea" it really was. Does anyone know if there are any further details of this scheme anywhere - a report, plans and if so where they might be located? Maybe the scheme had a formal 'name'? Also interested if there are any other book, journal or magazine references to the idea.

Thanks,

Graham
 
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Gloster

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This doesn’t seem to have been particularly likely to have been a serious proposal. Could it have just been building curves and connections to allow more through running without reversals. And why Aberystwyth?
 

ChiefPlanner

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Absolute madness as a suggestion when post war the best resources could allow was to restart the Shenfield and Woodhead schemes and a serious grapple with the massive backlog of stock and route wear and tear. (steel and fuel shortages being key !)

The LNER produced a very good discussion report on "moving forward" post war , much of it which was unachievable - and that concentrated on the "day job" !
 

randyrippley

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If this was planned prior to D-Day I can see the logic of a coast-to-coast military freight route in the assumption it would have taken longer to clear Holland and Belgium. Presumably Aberystwyth harbour would have been expanded.
Would have provided additional Atlantic port capacity without disrupting existing ports
 

edwin_m

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The harbour at Aberystwyth is tiny and there are no natural features that would facilitate expanding it, so anything new would have had to be totally artificial. I'm not sure why anyone would consider doing that when there are far better ones at Fishguard and the Milford Haven inlet with plenty of scope for expansion, more easily defended, and also having much better rail links.
 

Journeyman

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Absolute madness as a suggestion when post war the best resources could allow was to restart the Shenfield and Woodhead schemes and a serious grapple with the massive backlog of stock and route wear and tear. (steel and fuel shortages being key !)

The LNER produced a very good discussion report on "moving forward" post war , much of it which was unachievable - and that concentrated on the "day job" !
The Southern came up with something similar, rather optimistically proposing electrification of just about everything. It was 1959 before the electric network expanded.
 

Merthyr Imp

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In the East Midlands volume of the Regional Railways series, there is a brief mention of a proposal in 1944 to build a new railway from Harwich and Yarmouth to Aberystwyth via Northampton and Worcester. Of course, it never happened and I am not sure how much further than an "idea" it really was. Does anyone know if there are any further details of this scheme anywhere - a report, plans and if so where they might be located? Maybe the scheme had a formal 'name'? Also interested if there are any other book, journal or magazine references to the idea.

Thanks,

Graham
Do you mean the East Midlands volume (9) of A Regional History of the Railways of Great Britain? If so, can you say whereabouts it mentions it? There's no mention of any of those places, apart from Northampton, in the index to my 1976 edition.
 

grove

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Do you mean the East Midlands volume (9) of A Regional History of the Railways of Great Britain? If so, can you say whereabouts it mentions it? There's no mention of any of those places, apart from Northampton, in the index to my 1976 edition.
It is in the first paragraph on page 58 of the 1984 edition of volume (9) of A Regional History of the Railways of Great Britain.
 

etr221

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It is in the first paragraph on page 58 of the 1984 edition of volume (9) of A Regional History of the Railways of Great Britain.
... where, as you siad, it is the briefest of mentions without any detail.

At that period there were a lot of proposals for 'post war', of varying degrees of officialness, few of which got anywhere, at least in the short or even medium term.

But I do wonder if this was a progenitor of the BR Modernisation Plan development of the Cambridge-Bletchley-Oxford line.
 

Merthyr Imp

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Ah yes - it's on page 58 of the 1976 edition too (so much for the index!).

As you say, it would interesting to know more about it. I do tend to think, as Gloster and etr221 have suggested,it might be more to do with use of existing lines rather than a whole brand new railway. A cursory glance at the map made me wonder if it might have involved development of the Stratford-upon-Avon & Midland Junction line.

But it does seem a bit curious in that Yarmouth and Harwich are not exactly close to each other - and why Aberystwyth?
 

S&CLER

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Absolute madness as a suggestion when post war the best resources could allow was to restart the Shenfield and Woodhead schemes and a serious grapple with the massive backlog of stock and route wear and tear. (steel and fuel shortages being key !)

The LNER produced a very good discussion report on "moving forward" post war , much of it which was unachievable - and that concentrated on the "day job" !
Would the LNER report have been by Michael Bonavia by any chance? I seem to have read that he and his oppo at the LMS A.J. Pearson were tasked with preparing the companies' case against nationalisation (maybe that was the same report to which you refer?).
 

grove

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Ah yes - it's on page 58 of the 1976 edition too (so much for the index!).

As you say, it would interesting to know more about it. I do tend to think, as Gloster and etr221 have suggested,it might be more to do with use of existing lines rather than a whole brand new railway. A cursory glance at the map made me wonder if it might have involved development of the Stratford-upon-Avon & Midland Junction line.

But it does seem a bit curious in that Yarmouth and Harwich are not exactly close to each other - and why Aberystwyth?
A book without footnotes/sources is a bit of a frustration. There is a bibliography but no clues there either. I can't see the SMJ as a particularly fast or direct route either, it's a bit like the Northern Powerhouse running from Fleetwood to Grimsby!

Would the LNER report have been by Michael Bonavia by any chance? I seem to have read that he and his oppo at the LMS A.J. Pearson were tasked with preparing the companies' case against nationalisation (maybe that was the same report to which you refer?).
Thank you. I was not aware of those names so it does give me something to follow up on.
 

30907

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I do tend to think, as Gloster and etr221 have suggested,it might be more to do with use of existing lines rather than a whole brand new railway. A cursory glance at the map made me wonder if it might have involved development of the Stratford-upon-Avon & Midland Junction line.
The SMJ, or at least part of it, was indeed developed for freight under BR, but for mineral traffic rather than port-to-port.
 

ChiefPlanner

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Would the LNER report have been by Michael Bonavia by any chance? I seem to have read that he and his oppo at the LMS A.J. Pearson were tasked with preparing the companies' case against nationalisation (maybe that was the same report to which you refer?).

Bonavia was the author of "The LNER looks forward" - reposing in the York archives , there was a similar piece of work done for the GWR "Next Station" - these are loose titles , but they were all produced as a counter attack on planned nationalisation. Quite fascinating stuff - but regrettably for the authors failed to influence politics and policy.
 

grove

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Bonavia was the author of "The LNER looks forward" - reposing in the York archives , there was a similar piece of work done for the GWR "Next Station" - these are loose titles , but they were all produced as a counter attack on planned nationalisation. Quite fascinating stuff - but regrettably for the authors failed to influence politics and policy.
Was there a similar LMS document?
 

randyrippley

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The harbour at Aberystwyth is tiny and there are no natural features that would facilitate expanding it, so anything new would have had to be totally artificial. I'm not sure why anyone would consider doing that when there are far better ones at Fishguard and the Milford Haven inlet with plenty of scope for expansion, more easily defended, and also having much better rail links.
But expanding an existing port would have been disruptive to war work. And adding another creates security through redundancy - especially when the Welsh mountains would make an attack from the east difficult.
An artificial harbour would have been possible - remember Mulberry?
 

Doctor Fegg

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I wonder if it might have been one of the proposals by J.F. Pownall, better known as the promoter of the Grand Contour Canal. He was advancing a railway scheme around that time and had a liking for the grandiose.
 

edwin_m

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But expanding an existing port would have been disruptive to war work. And adding another creates security through redundancy - especially when the Welsh mountains would make an attack from the east difficult.
An artificial harbour would have been possible - remember Mulberry?
Plenty of space in the Milford Haven inlet to create a new harbour without affecting existing ports, as was done later with various terminals. In 1944 any risk of invasion would have been from the sea, where a natural inlet is far easier to defend than an artificial harbour projecting from a nearly straight coastline.

One of the Mulberries was swept away by a storm after a couple of weeks - they did their job but weren't really a long-term proposition.
 

65477

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I wonder if it might have been one of the proposals by J.F. Pownall, better known as the promoter of the Grand Contour Canal. He was advancing a railway scheme around that time and had a liking for the grandiose.

Powell was the author of a book around this time of a book called New Railway Network Principles. I cannot trace this on the internet.
 

grove

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Powell was the author of a book around this time of a book called New Railway Network Principles. I cannot trace this on the internet.
I don't think this is what prompted Robert Leleux's comment though. I have found some description of Pownall's rail plan in the British Newspaper Archive. It was some sort of strange timetable where trains moved in precisely one hour slots to the next designated place. Thereby creating a "web" connections across the country! Attached is an extract from the Skegness Standard ...

image_2021-03-29_115803.png
 

edwin_m

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I don't think this is what prompted Robert Leleux's comment though. I have found some description of Pownall's rail plan in the British Newspaper Archive. It was some sort of strange timetable where trains moved in precisely one hour slots to the next designated place. Thereby creating a "web" connections across the country! Attached is an extract from the Skegness Standard ...

View attachment 93258
That's basically the Taktfahrplan system adopted in Switzerland in the 1970s and elsewhere since.
 

etr221

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I vaguely recall seeing it - or something like it - many years ago. IIRC, it had a network of nodal stations, all an hour apart, arranged in a triangular trellis arrangement (i.e. six lines radiating from each node). While the starting point for the proposal was the regular hourly connecting service timetable - in its way quite sensible - it accepted that there were many missing links for such a system, and proposed constructing them all, as the price to be paid! There was a diagramatic map showing the network, and also those 'extra' lines that already existed, or were needed to access non-nodal points.

While the Swiss Taktfahrplan was indeed something on the same lines, they based theirs far more on what they already had, rather than starting with a new, idealised timetable, and wanting a total redesign and rebuild of the network to suit it! (I think did need one new stretch)
 

Dr_Paul

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The harbour at Aberystwyth is tiny and there are no natural features that would facilitate expanding it, so anything new would have had to be totally artificial. I'm not sure why anyone would consider doing that when there are far better ones at Fishguard and the Milford Haven inlet with plenty of scope for expansion, more easily defended, and also having much better rail links.
I agree. Holyhead also offered an existing harbour and good rail links. Aberystwyth was not exactly easily approachable by rail back then; the single-track lines from Shrewsbury via Machynlleth and up from Carmarthen were not exactly suitable for heavy freight and the latter was very circuitous. A line following the A44 eastwards would have had to reach over a 1000' pass or through a long tunnel (one can see why the projected line from Llanidloes to Aberystwyth was abandoned), and was faced with some hefty hills between Llanidloes and Worcester. I don't think that this could have been a serious idea; I'd like to see why somebody thought it was.
 

S&CLER

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I vaguely recall seeing it - or something like it - many years ago. IIRC, it had a network of nodal stations, all an hour apart, arranged in a triangular trellis arrangement (i.e. six lines radiating from each node). While the starting point for the proposal was the regular hourly connecting service timetable - in its way quite sensible - it accepted that there were many missing links for such a system, and proposed constructing them all, as the price to be paid! There was a diagramatic map showing the network, and also those 'extra' lines that already existed, or were needed to access non-nodal points.

While the Swiss Taktfahrplan was indeed something on the same lines, they based theirs far more on what they already had, rather than starting with a new, idealised timetable, and wanting a total redesign and rebuild of the network to suit it! (I think did need one new stretch)
I recall seeing this scheme, with diagrammatic map, in a book by Roger Calvert some time in the late 1960s. I don't have a copy and can't recall the title, unfortunately. Calvert was quite well known at the time as a rather eccentric anti-closures campaigner.
 

Merthyr Imp

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I recall seeing this scheme, with diagrammatic map, in a book by Roger Calvert some time in the late 1960s. I don't have a copy and can't recall the title, unfortunately. Calvert was quite well known at the time as a rather eccentric anti-closures campaigner.
Perhaps 'The Future of Britain's Railways' (1965)? Not that I've read it.
 

grove

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Perhaps 'The Future of Britain's Railways' (1965)? Not that I've read it.
Hopefully, someone has a copy to hand. There is a snippet view on Google Books and it does suggest there are some ideas on this scheme.
 

Dr Hoo

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I read it about twenty years ago, and I'm fairly sure Pownall's scheme was discussed in it (complete with diagram).
Just dug my copy out. (I find it one of those irritating books that I keep disagreeing with although there are some interesting arguments in it.)

The Pownall plan is discussed in Chapter 8 'New Timetables' (pages 151-159).

Calvert's view is that: "a system of hour sections keeping lines as they now are, could be put into operation at once".

Yeah. Right.

(Have attempted to copy image but am hopeless at the tech of posting it properly. Sorry.)

1617039653009.png
 
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